It led me to consider regret, or the lack thereof. I've lived a pretty safe life (classic oldest child, if you're a birth order follower) and toed the straight line that keeps out the danger. Not a bone in my body desires to live on that edge that welcomes skydiving or stunt driving or riding bicycles without proper safety attire. In fact, I'm most comfortable safe on the ground without moving parts. I tried rollerblading a few times but decided to take my falls about 4 inches closer to the ground without wheels underfoot.
As I processed through my own quarter-life, I decided my biggest regret is my lack of regret. In my efforts to do things right, my story doesn't get very exciting with all my wrongs. You see, while strong effort has been made to put up a facade of perfection, everyone knows it's not true. If you've known me for more than 5 minutes you realize I strive to do things right, to make things good, but I miss. And my misses just aren't exciting. Rarely do they put me in a place of learning a deep and true lesson to guide me through the next storm. Instead, I just learn techniques to wallpaper over it.
I once jumped on to our jetski amid a hefty storm because it had floated out of the dock. I kept it from ramming into the boat prop, and in so doing, got a nice slice on the leg. It was a fun story to tell for a time. Granted, I wasn't in real danger - Indian Lake keeps about 3 feet of water and I was a good swimmer. Plenty of others were nearby to "save" me. But it was a fun mark to share with others.
Scars, dents, imperfections... these tell the stories of our lives. They're badges of our risks and possibly even regrets. Sometimes they're the trophies of our victories. Marks to remind us who we are, where we've come from and can inform where we're going.
My cousin, A, came of age in the era of the chinese symbol tattoo. He and his friend, with whom he often found himself in sticky or troublesome situations, were set to go get tattoos together once they were legal. However, life took a turn and his friend died. Cousin A went ahead and got the tattoo: the symbol for "trouble" right over his heart. I don't believe that A regrets any of the trouble he found with his friend.
Currently I bear a patch of purple lines around my midsection, complete with disfigured belly button. In my most vain moments, specifically during the summer, I wish them away. However, they're the result of 5 years filled with growing 4 children. They tell the story of each baby's entrance into the world and the role my body played in bringing them here. I don't think I'd trade that role, those stories, for a lower-cut bikini.
In fact, I wish I was doing more make marks with my life. I wish I had more bumps and bruises; perhaps a rugburn or two from living well. And maybe from living not-well. As I think about it, I think I'd welcome a few marks of mistakes, places commemorating my screw-ups and the lessons I'd learned, the person it had helped me become. I would take the stories of risking much over the mundane process of preserving little.
My MIL keeps a magnent on the fridge that reads "Clean houses are a sign of boring people." I tend to be of the clean-house variety, but I welcome the sentiment. The work of keeping things tidy isn't nearly as exciting as the efforts of creating something that could likely end up in a mess, but possesses the opportunity to be a really great story.
I believe our lives, our homes, our bodies are valuable. I believe we should live in a way that cares for them, for they are the shelter of our stories. But caring for them doesn't mean you don't frequently take them for a spin and put them to work. If you don't, you don't have a story, you just have a pretty backdrop. Nobody reads or listens to a backdrop. Wallpaper makes for boring conversation. What makes for a good story is hearing how that huge mark in the wall came to be.
It's time to make more marks. Scuff up the floor a little. Tell a good story.